Cape Town - Fast bowler Vernon Philander claimed five early wickets as South Africa ripped out New Zealand for 45 inside 20 overs on the opening morning of the first test at Newlands on Wednesday.

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum's decision to bat first backfired completely as Philander produced astonishing figures of five for seven and the touring side were dismissed for their third lowest total in tests.

South Africa lost their captain Graeme Smith for one in the second over and the world's top-ranked team reached three for one in reply at lunch after an extraordinary morning session.

New Zealand came into the series in disarray following the controversial sacking of Ross Taylor from the captaincy and Philander struck in the second over when he had Martin Guptill caught behind for one.

That triggered an ignominious procession for the New Zealanders with Philander removing McCullum, Dean Brownlie and Kane Williamson in his next three overs as the visitors lost their top order for 27 runs inside 10 overs.

Williamson's 13 was the highest individual score and none of his team mates managed double figures.

Paceman Morne Morkel (three for 14) soon got into the act, removing James Franklin caught at first slip for one.

Dale Steyn came into the match needing just one wicket to reach the 300 mark in tests and he returned after a barren first spell to reach the milestone by removing Doug Bracewell's off-stump with a fine out-swinger.

Morkel claimed the wickets of Jeetan Patel and Trent Boult before Steyn picked up the final wicket when Daniel Flynn, who survived 28 deliveries, skied a catch back to the fast bowler. - Reuters